Jane Manning was a remarkable woman.
In her Life Sketch, recorded in 1893, Jane wrote of walking 800 miles to Nauvoo to be with people of her new faith. She recalled, “We walked until our shoes were worn out, and our feet became sore and cracked open and bled until you could see the whole print of our feet with blood on the ground.” When Jane and her family arrived in Nauvoo, they were welcomed by Joseph Smith himself (Joseph Smith was the prophet of newly organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
“Brother Joseph sat down by me and said, ‘God bless you. You are among friends.”
Jane, her husband, and children, were part of the the first Mormon pioneer company to enter the Salt Lake Valley in September 1847. She was the first documented African-American woman to come to the Utah Territory as a pioneer. “At the time of their settlement in the Salt Lake Valley, they made up a third of the 12 African Americans living in Utah, and were the only ones who were free.”
There’s a story of Jane written by Eliza Partridge Lyman (an ancestor of mine!) Jane and her family lived in poverty, but in 1849, when her neighbor Eliza had no food for her family until the harvest while her husband was on a mission to California, Eliza wrote: “Not long after Amasa (husband) had gone, Jane James, the colored woman, let me have two pounds of flour, it being half of what she had.”
Jane and her family became quite prosperous and were able to hold property and animals. After Jane’s husband left her, and she was a single parent, things became much harder. She sold her farm and worked as a servant.
The thing I most admire about Jane is her charity and love for a religion, even though she was not able to participate in all of the blessings afforded to white members of the church. She was told to wait. The church’s theology at the time did not give the same blessings to African Americans as it did to whites, for instance attending the temple. It’s a bit infuriating and hard for me to understand.
She died without the same privileges as whites had within the church, yet she remained on good terms with her brothers and sisters of the church because she believed the gospel was true. At her death, the prophet spoke.
Jane is very revered in the LDS Christian faith today. In June 1999, a monument to Janes’s life was dedicated near her grave in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. On it is a quote by Manning:
“I try in my feeble way to set an example for all.” -jane manning
Stay tuned for more amazing women in history.